The Human Element | Teen Ink

The Human Element

April 25, 2014
By CharBLord, Spring city, Pennsylvania
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CharBLord, Spring City, Pennsylvania
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Humanity is a word hated by my kind.

For three generations we were at war with the humans, the creatures that brought this concept of feeling and emotion. They came down from the sky and we perceived them as a threat. We don’t know who made the first move but our Elders have explained it wouldn’t have mattered. They told us the humans were horrible brutes who were ruled by these…Feelings, small parasites that controlled their fragile brains. They were slaves in their own body, forced to do what the Feelings told them to do, and the Feelings wanted us dead, as to possess our superior heads. So the Elders fought back, crushing the humans like the puny beings we thought they were. The humans had died off, killed and hunted by us, the Zwerians and my tribe, the Zwerian Sokorty, or so we thought.

The sky was a burnt crimson with painted lines of soft yellow dying like embers on the horizon. I sat still on the edge of the lake, staring at the calm water in front of me, reflecting the third sunset of the day. Eer would be wondering where I was soon. I had promised him I would attend the tribal feast during the longest night of the Second Moon of Gargin. I sighed. I would rather jump into the lake. The feast was supposed to be in honor of the Fortune Deity but the Elders always used this gathering as a way to pass down their heritage to their sons. That’s why Eer was so keen about my coming, to hand me his legacy. Most sons would have been pleased if not ecstatic to have received the position of Elder Lo but I was always a bit different from my kin.

I sighed, yet again, grabbing a rock from the bank of the lake. I couldn’t remember the name of the lake, then again, I wasn’t even sure how I had gotten here. While I was walking I had been too busy thinking about what the future held for an outsider like me. I do that a lot. Think. Imagine. I’m not supposed to but I can’t help it. Qwea, the woman who had raised me, once told me I was cursed with the soul of a human. My father nearly beat Qwea upon hearing her say that but she was right. I was as very much an alien to my people as those creatures that landed here so long ago were.

I turned the rock over in my hand feeling the cool texture and the hard surface. I stared down at it, hoping it could tell me what I should do. On one hand, I wanted to run into the forest and live a life of a Yomahag, a lone traveler, but on the other, I wanted to please my father by becoming the person he’s always wanted me to be. I knew if I left, my father would be the last Elder of his family and his legacy would be ruined. But if I stayed, I would be lying to myself. I would be a fake. How could anyone follow a leader when he isn’t even sure of who he is? I pursed my lips, knowing no matter how much I wanted to take off into the forest, I would never do it. The others would say I was a coward and in a way, they were right. I was afraid to leave but not because of the dangers out there, or the foreign tribes, but because of how I might tarnish my father’s reputation. I always worried about others, it was who I was. Qwea told me this was a sign of the parasite the Elders had told us plagued the humans, but I wasn’t so sure.

I closed my eyes, rubbing my fingers along the rock, feeling every crevice and scratch until I had memorized every corner of the small stone. I clenched my hand, my palms digging into the pebble and lifted my arm above my head, throwing it into the lake in front of me. I heard the plop of it hitting the cool blue water and knew the rock would be sinking slowly, farther and farther down. Predictable, if not a little depressing. That was the way around here, predictable and a little depressing. I knew if I went back that’s what my life would be. I’d become Elder Lo, find a mate, have a son, hand him my legacy.

Life, yes. But a life not lived.

I stood up, my legs creaking with the sudden exertion and pressure and my head spinning. Emotions ran through me, each one tearing at me, holding me back. A sudden thought hit me, the thought that what I was feeling, they were Feelings. I was infected. Have I had these all my life? How? I mean, I haven’t even come in contact with humans. I groaned, rubbing my eyes and crouching over, looking up at the sky as if expecting an answer. Nothing made sense. Standing up straight again, my eyes searched the sky. My head pounded, too many thoughts. Now I knew why the Elders frowned upon this. It hurt, it was agonising. All of it. The Feelings, the thoughts. Maybe I was sick.

Just as I was about to look back to the water, something caught my attention. In the distance, all the way across the large lake, above the trees that stood there, a light. It moved closer and closer, crossing the lake, growing bigger. I gasped. It was a ship. A spaceship. The Elders had described them as large, metal things that descended and flew through the sky. They carried humans. I shook my head. This was not possible! The humans were extinct. And those... those things were destroyed along with them.

The metal monster floated across the lake, passing by me and moving to the Jukari Forest. I blinked. The feast was at that forest, everyone would be there, celebrating, dancing. They wouldn’t be ready for war. I didn’t know what to do. I had no time to think. I did the first thing that came to mind. I ran.

My legs were quickly strained from exhaustion but adrenaline rushed through me as I made my way to the Jukari Forest. I would be there soon. I kept repeating this to myself, hoping that I could believe it, hoping that when I did get there, they’d still be alive, still be fighting. I hoped I could help them if they weren’t. I knew I wouldn’t make much of a difference. I was a weakling, a nobody, an outsider. But they needed someone.

As I ran, I thought about the humans. How had they survived? Why were they attacking us? What were these Feelings, really? Nothing was making sense. But, something, something pulled at the back of my mind. It was on the tip of my tongue. I knew what was happening but I didn’t. I couldn’t answer the question because the question wasn’t complete. Something was missing.

From where I now was, I could hear the sound of gunfire, a military weapon used by the humans, and yelling. I was getting close. But, something held me back from running to the clearing. I could feel someone’s eyes on me from somewhere in the forest. Someone was watching me, seeing what I would do. I stared, frozen, unable to continue running. Someone was out there. As that thought raced through my mind, a searing pain in my leg caught me off guard, sending me sprawling to the ground. I gasped, dragging in breaths. I hesitated in looking down, but knew I would have to.

As I peered down at my leg, staring at the bloody tattered heap that laid there, I wondered what type of injury this was. It had to have been from a human weapon, possibly a gun, no Zwerian would purposely injure me. I looked around me, trying to ascertain where the shot had come from. I knew I couldn’t run but I didn’t want to be completely hopeless. I gripped a rock that I had been a mere foot away from falling on, holding on to it with a reserved strength I didn’t know I possessed. I looked around the cluster of trees, searching for a figure or light.

“Well,” My voice shook with rage and pretend defiance, I couldn’t have fought off an attack if I tried, but pride kept me from dropping the rock and surrendering, “what do you want?” I called. At first I wasn’t sure if what I saw was correct, as I had never seen the humans before but I quickly realized my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. There, standing not 20 feet away, was a human. Female from the look. She crossed over to me, a shiny rod object in her hand, and stood staring. The look she gave me was strange yet familiar.

“I- I’m sorry.” She spoke softly. She spoke the Zwerian language with a strange accent, I was shocked to hear her know my words and angry that I didn’t know hers.

“You speak my language?” I asked, my leg forgotten.

“Yes.” She said, still staring down at my leg, her face contorted in a new expression I had never seen before. She seemed not to hear her own words, though I struggled to hear every word she spoke, trying to understand. “The Zwerian Maccio taught us.” The Maccio? That was the royal house. Why would they teach the humans Zwerik?

Out of confusion, I mumbled the only thing I knew was certain, “I don’t understand. Why would they teach you? The Zwerians hate you.” I realized I had spoken separate from my people but didn’t give it another thought as the girl looked down at me, hesitation and contemplation written across her face. What was she thinking? Were her Feelings speaking to her- no, that wasn’t right. There are no Feelings, no infection. That was the only thing that made sense.

“I’m sorry I shot you, I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid.” My eyebrows pulled together. Why wasn’t she answering?! The woman sighed and crouched besides me. As she pulled some strange fabric tightly across my wound, she spoke. “Along time ago,” she began, “our world was dying. We had killed it. It wasn’t on purpose but we did. So we had to find a new home. We travelled space for what seemed to be forever and finally we found a planet that we could survive on, Zweria. We descended and at first, the Zwerians were afraid but we made peace. To show our allegiance, our leader and the Elder Boca’s daughter of the Zwerian Sokorty tribe were to be married. Unknown to everyone, the daughter had other plans and the night before her wedding day, she killed her fiance. This, of course, did not go over well with the humans and war began. By the end of it, the humans would take shelter with the Zwerian Maccio and the Zwerian Sokorty would keep the secret of the war, well, a secret. That is until the humans rebuilt their army and set out for revenge. I- I didn’t want this. The Zwerians are our friends, I…” She struggled for the words to explain her thoughts towards the massacre I could hear not far from us. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.” The woman hung her head as I laid there, unfeeling. Now the pieces were coming together. I wanted to smile. I was right. There was no infection. But then I realized what this meant my people had done. I shook my head and tears flew down my cheeks. At that moment, the pain in my leg decided to make itself known.

My screams were piercing and terrible. The girl tried to hush me but I couldn’t stop; the pain was unbearable. The girl slammed her hand down on my mouth, staring at me intently. I looked up in anger, this was her fault. I thrashed and moved my limbs, trying to shake her off but she simply held me down, trying to keep me quiet.

The snap of a twig to the left caught my attention. I stopped moving and, breathing hard, stared into the forest. Someone else was out there, close. Just as I was about to turn to the girl so I could suggest hiding, a Zwerian figure stampeded from the brush, spear in hand. Before I could think, I jumped in front of the girl, pushing her to the ground below me. I stared into the eyes of my executioner, realization dawning his face.

“Dig?” I fell to the ground, my leg giving up and my chest searing. “Dig? Why?” The voice questioned. I glanced up, this time seeing who had pierced me- my father, Eer. Tears streaked Eer’s face and I knew my face shadowed his pain. The girl sat a few feet to the side of me, staring in shock as her eyes traveled the length of the spear now lodged in my chest.

“Father-” I gasped for breath as fluid filled my lungs. “I’m sorry. I had to. You couldn’t- you couldn’t...” Again, I took deep breaths, ignoring the pain. “It wasn’t right. She- she’s innocent.” Eer looked away, staring at the girl in anger, internally blaming her for my choice. As he opened his mouth to tell her off, I spoke, “EerBarth, don’t.” Eer turned to me. “Don’t blame her. She told me the truth. Of the war. It was our fault.” I coughed, blood dribbling out of my mouth. “They wanted revenge. That’s why they’re here. But, we can find peace. We can… we can…” My eyes fell shut and, in the distance I heard Eer’s sobs and screams. But who was he calling? I heard my name but that couldn’t be right. I was right here, I wasn’t going anywhere. But, he was so far away. I saw black and slowly fell into oblivion.

Evangeline. Evangeline was her name. She was the human I had died for. The human that brought peace to our world. For years after she would travel from tribe to tribe to speak of my death, of how humans and Zwerians could live together, peacefully. I’m not sure my death was what brought peace to Zweria, as Evangeline had said, but I can say it brought change.

My father cried and mourned me but eventually gathered the Zwerian Sokorty and told them the truth of the war. Evangeline begged the humans to stop their attack and eventually, with time, we did find peace. Of course, this peace wouldn’t last forever. Wars, battles, and discrimination would follow for years after but peace would always return. And no matter the time that passed or wars that plagued our people, one word would always stand for the love and amity between us.

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